Wilbekin proving he can run UF offense

Published: Friday, January 11, 2013 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 9:13 p.m.

Florida junior Scottie Wilbekin is going through the growing pains of a first-year starting point guard.

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Florida Gators guard Scottie Wilbekin shouts a play agains the Georgia Bulldogs during the first half on Wednesday at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center in Gainesville. Florida defeated Georgia 77-44.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer

There was a clunker against Air Force in which Wilbekin had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1 to 4.

But Wilbekin has responded with 16 assists over his last two games, proving that he is more than capable of running UF's offense. The Gainesville native followed up a career-high 10-assist game at Yale with six more assists Wednesday night against Georgia.

Wilbekin said he's seeing the floor better now than he did earlier this season, when he was sharing time with senior Kenny Boynton at the point. He ranks second in the Southeastern Conference in assists at 4.8 per game.

“I think it has a lot to do with slowing my pace down,” Wilbekin said. “Whether it's on pick and rolls or just getting into the lane, slowing down so I can see everything easier.”

It hasn't been an easy season for Wilbekin, who started the year with a two-game disciplinary suspension and suffered a broken finger on his shooting hand in practice before UF's loss at Arizona in mid-December. Wilbekin still has the finger taped up.

“It hurts a little bit when it gets hit, but I'm hoping to be able to get the tape off soon,” Wilbekin said.

Florida coach Billy Donovan has stressed the importance of UF improving its assist-to-turnover ratio since the December losses to Arizona and Kansas State. Wilbekin has been the steadiest on UF's roster, with an assist-to-turnover ratio of close to 3-to-1 (53-to-20). Florida's current assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.3-1 is third-best in the SEC.

The Gators have no players in the top 13 in scoring in the SEC, but three players in the Top 25. Boynton ranks 14th in scoring at 13.3 points per game, Mike Rosario is 18th at 12.3 ppg and Erik Murphy is tied to 22nd at 12 ppg.

“There's a lot of different elements to our team instead of being one-dimensional where we become a team that's just going to pound it inside all of the time or run screening action to get our guards shots,” Donovan said. “I think you've got to really rely on each other and play together and utilize each other's strengths and talents on the floor, then you become a lot more difficult to defend.”

That unselfishness suits Wilbekin fine. At The Rock School in Gainesville, Wilbekin needed to score. In college, Wilbekin has developed into a pass-first point guard with occasional scoring ability. Wilbekin is averaging 8.2 ppg, which included a career-high 17 points earlier in the season against UCF.

“It just speaks to our chemistry and the selflessness of each player on the team because a lot of players on this team could average a lot of points somewhere else, be the main guy getting shots,” Wilbekin said. “But we're trying to do something different here and to do that we all have to pitch in and have balance on the team.”

Defensively, Wilbekin has remained just as strong. He held Yale leading scorer Austin Morgan to just three points last Sunday and Georgia leading scorer Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a season-low 11 points.

“Whenever a team has a standout player who gets the majority of their points and shots, it's always an emphasis to shut him down,” said Wilbekin, who deflected credit to his teammates. “The whole team is kind of focused on helping the player who is guarding him.”

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